Contains Strong Language

The first allocation of tickets for Contains Strong Language, the new poetry and spoken word festival coming to Hull in September, goes live on Monday 24 July. Poetry lovers and spoken word enthusiasts can get their hands on tickets to see some of the world’s most renowned artists including Kate Tempest, John Cooper Clarke and The Unthanks. Joining them on the bill are the BBC Philharmonic, and Imtiaz Dharker, a Pakistan-born British poet who has won the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry.

Contains Strong Language takes place across four days from National Poetry Day on Thursday 28 September to Sunday 1 October. Produced by BBC Radio in partnership with Hull 2017, Hull City Council, Humber Mouth, The British Council, BBC Learning, Wrecking Ball Press and a number of poetry organisations, Contains Strong Language celebrates new and existing work, with more than 50 events across eight venues in Hull – including world premieres, concerts, workshops and outreach activity.

This festival will give a nod to the past while embracing the future, bringing wordsmiths from different backgrounds – page poets, spoken word artists, lyricists and performance artists – into new collaborations. It will also encourage emerging talent, giving them a platform alongside first-class local, national and international poets.

Outreach activity has already begun in the city with a series of workshops happening in different communities, led by poets Bohdan Piasecki, Louise Wallwein, Kate Fox and Joe Hakim. Hull’s very own Dean Wilson and Vicky Foster have also been working with BBC Radio Humberside to gather 2,017 poems from across the region, asking the public to put pen to paper and write about where they live.

Dr John Cooper Clarke and special guests

Friday 29 September, 8pm-10pm, Middleton Hall, Cottingham Rd, Hull HU6 7RX.

Dr John Cooper Clarke’s show is a mix of classic verse, extraordinary new material, hilarious ponderings on modern life, good honest gags, riffs and chat – a chance to witness a living legend at the top of this game. Dr John Cooper Clarke will appear with special guests, Toria Garbutt and Mike Garry.

Imtiaz Dharker and JoinedUp Dance Company: This Tide of Humber

Saturday 30 September, 3.15pm-4pm, 4.30pm-5.15pm, Hull College, Queens Gardens, Wilberforce Dr, Hull HU1 3DG.

JoinedUp Dance Company creates a new piece of contemporary dance inspired by Imtiaz Dharker’s poem, This Tide of Humber which commissioned specially for Contains Strong Language.

This Tide of Humber captures the inexplicable pull of a city where dislocation and separation mix with images of water and sky to create a unique sense of place.  Imtiaz Dharker’s wonderful evocation of the city of Hull and the River Humber is interpreted by JoinedUp Dance Company to create a wistful, enigmatic performance piece with an original score by composer Joe Roper.

BBC Philharmonic and BBC Radio 3: A Clockwork Orange

Saturday 30 September, 6.30pm-8pm, Middleton Hall, Cottingham Rd, Hull HU6 7RX.

In the year in which we celebrate the centenary of Anthony Burgess’s birth, BBC Radio Drama in collaboration with the BBC Philharmonic presents a UK premiere of his cult novel A Clockwork Orange.

In 1987 Burgess published a dramatisation of his own classic text which included songs and music. This will be the first time Burgess’s Clockwork Orange music has been performed along with the play in the UK.

Commissioned by BBC Radio 3, the radio theatre performance of A Play With Music will also be the second time it has been performed since his death, and the first time his songs have ever been broadcast. It will be recorded with an audience in University of Hull’s Middleton Hall and broadcast on BBC Radio 3 in Drama On 3 the following evening (Sunday 1 October).

Kate Tempest: Let Them Eat Chaos

Saturday 30 September, 8pm-10.30pm, Hull Minster, Market Pl, Hull HU1 1RR.

Kate Tempest and her band will perform Let Them Eat Chaos in Hull Minster. With full support from her band and a stunning backdrop, this will be an unmissable performance of her explosive second solo album.

The Unthanks: How the Wind Blows

Sunday 1 October, 8.30pm-11.30pm, Jubilee Church, 62 King Edward St, Hull HU1 3SQ.

Performing The Songs and Poems of Molly Drake.

A wistful mother makes some simple home recordings in her family sitting room during the 1950s. Little could she have known that more than 60 years later, the dust would be blown off her song collection, firstly in 2013 with the release of her own recordings, and now by The Unthanks, who believe her work is extraordinary enough to rank alongside and independently of her brilliant son, Nick Drake.

The performance will be an audiovisual work featuring live performance by The Unthanks, film footage of Molly Drake, a set depicting her living room in abstract fashion, and spoken word pre-recorded by Molly’s daughter, actress Gabrielle Drake. In some cases, The Unthanks in characteristically adventurous style, have drifted considerably from the ornamentations and voicings of the original songs, and at other points have yielded more faithfully. At the core in both cases lie the emotive sentiments of a unique and unheralded woman.


At the heart of the festival will be The Hull 17 – an ensemble of the country’s most interesting and diverse artists – commissioned to create new work in the city throughout the duration of the festival. The full line-up of poets who form The Hull 17 and have been commissioned to produce new work is:

  • Bohdan Piasecki
  • Dean Wilson
  • Fred Voss
  • Hannah Silva
  • Harry Giles
  • Helen Mort
  • Imtiaz Dharker
  • Isaiah Hull
  • Jacob Polley
  • Joe Hakim
  • Joelle Taylor
  • Kate Fox
  • Kate Tempest
  • Louise Wallwein
  • Michael Symmons Roberts
  • Vicky Foster
  • Zena Edwards

Sue Roberts, creative director of Contains Strong Language, said: “This festival is doing something new, providing a bridge between the spoken word and the printed page. We’ve got something for everyone – performances, workshops, picnics, films, concerts, and readings. Poets will be everywhere, including places you wouldn’t expect.

Contains Strong Language is accessible, relevant and engaging for a wide, diverse audience. That’s really exciting.”

Martin Green, CEO and director of Hull 2017, said: “Having opened our UK City of Culture celebrations with his heartfelt poem, A City Speaks, we’re delighted to be teaming up with Shane Rhodes again during Humber Mouth’s 25th anniversary, alongside the BBC which is continuing to deliver on its promise to be ‘unashamedly Hull-centric’.

Home to the likes of Philip Larkin and Andrew Marvell, Hull has been dubbed ‘the most poetic city in England’ so it’s an honour to host a world-class celebration of poetry, performance and spoken word inspired by the city’s rich literary heritage.

“We’ve already had a great response from the workshops which have been happening across the city and we hope that these events will further inspire the next generation of poets.”

Shane Rhodes, editor of Wrecking Ball Press and director of Humber Mouth festival, said: Here at Humber Mouth we are thrilled to be working with the BBC, bringing Contains Strong Language to Hull in 2017. Poetry runs through our veins.

“We are proud to be associated with this festival which presents such a diverse mix of the best in poetry and introduces the Hull 17 premiering 17 new commissions.”

Humber Mouth, the sister festival of Contains Strong Language which will run straight after, from Monday 2 to Sunday 8 October, will also release tickets for four of its events on Monday 24 July, these are;

The first tickets for Contains Strong Language and Humber Mouth will be available on Monday 24 July from 10am.